Tag Archives: film music

RIP Ennio Morricone (1928-2020)

I normally don’t comment on moments like this, as I normally reserve my blog for film and soundtrack reviews, but the passing of Ennio Morricone, a veritable titan in the world of film music, cannot be passed over without a mention.

I woke up this morning to the news that Ennio Morricone had passed away at the age of 91. He composed over 400 scores for film and television, and to this day might be best known as the composer for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (you know the piece I’m talking about). But Morricone’s work stretches far beyond that (rightfully acclaimed) film. He composed for spaghetti westerns, comedies, Hollywood films, foreign films, television scores, when you look at the complete list of scores Morricone created, you’ll be amazed that one man could create so much.

But I think the memory that will stick with me the longest about Ennio Morricone is how he won the Oscar for Best Original Score for The Hateful Eight at the age of 87 (making him the oldest person to ever receive a competitive Oscar to date). That he didn’t receive an Oscar until so late in his career is something of a crime in my opinion, but I’m glad he did receive some official recognition of his work from Hollywood (and rightfully so, as the music for The Hateful Eight is incredible).

The world of film music will never be quite the same again now that Ennio Morricone is gone. Rest in peace good sir, and thank you for everything.

Let me know about your favorite score by Ennio Morricone in the comments below.

See also:

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Star Wars: The Phantom Menace “Augie’s Great Municipal Band” (1999)

Star Wars is known for many things, but one of my favorites is the many great musical moments that define each of the films in their own way. In the prequel trilogy, one of my favorite moments comes at the very end of The Phantom Menace when everyone gathers in The (capital of Naboo) to celebrate their victory over the Trade Federation and the new alliance between the Gungans and the people of Naboo.

 

During “Augie’s Great Municipal Band”, the Gungans march up the main boulevard of Theed to the steps of the palace, celebrating all the way, while Queen Amidala waits for them along with a host of important characters (the Jedi council and the newly-elected Chancellor Palpatine among them). “Augie’s Great Municipal Band” has a bouncing melody that appears to perfectly reflect the excitement of the moment. But there’s a secret here, courtesy of John Williams.

Listen to this melody in the video above, listen to it very carefully. Do you hear it? Don’t feel bad if you can’t, I didn’t know this existed until I was told about it. Pay attention to the children’s choir, does it sound at all familiar? In a way it should, they’re actually singing the Emperor’s theme in a major key (it’s usually minor) and at least double the speed. That’s right, John Williams hid the Emperor’s theme in a scene of celebration as an extremely subtle bit of foreshadowing that Palpatine is literally controlling all of this. It’s downright spooky once you make the connection, not to mention it makes you view this “celebration” in a completely different light. Everything is going according to Palpatine’s plan, and the Jedi are already doomed, even though they appear to be stronger than ever.

 

Of all the musical foreshadowing John Williams has done in the Skywalker Saga, this is among the most subtle. Be sure to think about this the next time you watch the conclusion of The Phantom Menace, you’ll never look at that scene in the same way ever again.

Let me know what you think about “Augie’s Great Municipal Band” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Star Wars: A New Hope “The Throne Room” (1977)

Given the enormous amount of music that John Williams has composed for Star Wars over the decades, it stands to reason that some pieces will be remembered more than others. One piece that might not be remembered as much as it should is “The Throne Room”, the fanfare that concludes Episode IV before the credits begin to roll. To put it in context, the Death Star has been blown up, the surviving heroes have returned in triumph, and now it’s time for our heroes to receive their reward from Princess Leia:

 

It’s a stirring fanfare to be sure. As the heroes stride down the aisle to where Princess Leia and the other Rebel Alliance leaders are waiting, you hear a heroic version of “The Force” theme backed up primarily by the brass (and supported by the strings underneath). This music has all the makings of a climactic ending, and originally that’s what it was supposed to be. Remember, at the time the score was composed, there was no guarantee that there would be any sequel to Star Wars, let along a decades-spanning franchise that shows no sign of slowing down. With that in mind, it’s my understanding that the decision was made to give Star Wars as “final” sounding of an end as possible, just in case this was all she wrote and the film bombed at the box office (an idea that sounds laughable now but was a distinct possibility at the time).

“The Throne Room” is designed to bring the story of Star Wars to a close without the aid of dialogue. It tells us all we need to know: the heroes have done what they needed to do, now they can take a breath and celebrate their victory. And if this had been all there was, anyone could say this piece of music brings Star Wars to a thrilling conclusion. But of course, history tells us this was only the beginning for Star Wars. That being said, it doesn’t change the fact that “The Throne Room” is a beautiful piece of music, one that all fans of film music should take a few minutes and listen to.

Let me know what you think of “The Throne Room” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Star Wars: A New Hope “The Empire motif” (1977)

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars-The Final Season (Episodes 1-4) (2020)

Now that we’re a third of the way through the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Disney has released the official soundtrack for the first four episodes. This covers soundtrack excerpts for “The Bad Batch”, “A Distant Echo”, “On the Wings of Keeradaks”, and “Unfinished Business.”

If you’ve been following the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Disney+ then you know the music has been as brilliant as ever. There have been callbacks to some classic Star Wars motifs, and plenty of action as only composer Kevin Kiner can deliver it.

Kiner said (of this season): “It has been such a fantastic ride scoring ‘Clone Wars’ and working with Dave Filoni and George Lucas was a dream come true. I feel like season seven is everything we all wanted ‘Clone Wars’ to be, top to bottom.  From the music to the animation to the story lines to the directing, this is the show I always wanted to be a part of!”

The release dates for the remaining soundtrack releases are as follows (hopefully the coronavirus will not delay them):

4/10: Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Final Season (Episodes 5-8)
5/4: Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Final Season (Episodes 9-12)

 

Tracklist

  1. Star Wars Main Title & A Galaxy Divided
  2. Misplaced Hope
  3. Droids Approaching
  4. Clones Retreat
  5. Anakin and Padmé
  6. Chase in the Sky
  7. Poltechs
  8. Search Party
  9. Escape Route
  10. Walkers Battle
  11. Mission Begins
  12. Ticking Time Bomb
  13. Bad Batch Heroics
  14. Finest Troopers

Enjoy the new soundtrack release for Star Wars: The Clone Wars and have a great day!

See also:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Bad Batch Theme” (2020)

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens “March of the Resistance” (2015)

When Star Wars: The Force Awakens arrived at theaters in 2015, John Williams proved that he hadn’t missed a step by filling the film with all kinds of musical themes. Heroes and villains alike were given their own memorable themes. “March of the Resistance” is one of the heroic themes and was written for the Resistance as a whole, though I feel it could also be applied to certain characters. Check out “March of the Resistance” below:

This theme arrives for the first time in the midst of the Battle of Takodana, just as our heroes have been taken captive by the First Order. It starts as the camera turns and reveals Resistance X-Wings are racing towards the ruins of Maz’s Castle led by Poe Dameron.

“March of the Resistance” is one of the more “classic” Star Wars themes that John Williams created for The Force Awakens. By “classic” I mean that this theme could easily fit into the original trilogy with its jaunty bass tones and upbeat rhythms. Think about it, doesn’t this theme feel like it could apply to the Rebellion just as much as the Resistance? Not only that, but I really feel this theme could apply to Poe Dameron as his own personal theme. It fits Poe perfectly: it’s brash, it’s loud, and it just oozes confidence, all qualities that the future Resistance general definitely possesses. I’m not sure if Poe has his own theme or motif, but if he doesn’t, I’m probably just going to apply this theme to him from now on because it is just too perfect for him.

This theme recurs at several points in the sequel trilogy after debuting here, most notably in The Rise of Skywalker when the Resistance is departing to bring the fight to the Final Order. It’s a very versatile theme, good for playing over sections of the film that show the Resistance in action. It’s also quite memorable, as its one theme from the sequel trilogy that I’ve found myself humming from time to time.

I hope you enjoyed listening to “March of the Resistance” from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Let me know what you think about this theme in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Kylo Ren’s Theme” (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Rey’s Theme” (2015)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi “The Spark” (2017)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker “Kylo Ren’s Theme (Redeemed Version)” (2019)

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Rey’s Theme” (2015)

This is my honest opinion: if you try to tell me there are no great musical themes in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, then you haven’t been paying attention, because John Williams introduces a beautiful, original theme relatively early in the film. This is “Rey’s Theme” and it comes when, you guessed it, we first meet Rey living as a scavenger on Jakku.

 

The theme starts as Rey is leaving the ruins of the crashed Star Destroyer, having finished her work for the day. It starts off with a bit of whimsy, a soft chiming melody that soon grows into a flowing theme with the strings and woodwinds. This melody tells us several things: that Rey is young and idealistic (much as Luke Skywalker was many years ago), but also that she has her own inner strength even before she starts to use the Force. The former is heard in the opening part of the theme, and the inner strength is revealed when the strings come in, pushing the theme to new heights.

This original version of “Rey’s Theme” lays the foundation for several melodies to come in the sequel trilogy, particularly in The Rise of Skywalker. Williams will put this melody through several variations, altering it to meet Rey’s changing circumstances as the story progresses.

As a musical introduction to one of the most pivotal characters of the sequel trilogy, “Rey’s Theme” performs its purpose beautifully. This theme deserves to be remembered just as much as “The Force Theme”, “The Imperial March”, “Duel of the Fates” and any other classic Star Wars theme. For me, this theme is clear proof that John Williams is just as talented as ever when it comes to creating memorable film music themes.

I hope you enjoy listening to “Rey’s Theme” as originally heard in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, let me know what you think about it in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Kylo Ren’s Theme” (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “March of the Resistance” (2015)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi “The Spark” (2017)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker “Kylo Ren’s Theme (Redeemed Version)” (2019)

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker “Kylo Ren’s Theme (Redeemed Version)” (2019)

*warning (in case you haven’t seen it): some plot details from The Rise of Skywalker are mentioned

I understand that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has polarized Star Wars fans in every way imaginable and likely will continue to do so for years to come. That being said, this film, as with all the others in the Skywalker Saga, is full of interesting musical moments that we’ll be spending years breaking down and analyzing.

One moment that caught my attention the very first time I saw the film in theaters comes at the end of film, just as the dust is settling from Rey’s climactic fight with Emperor Palpatine. It’s a short moment in a larger theme, but it essentially makes up Kylo Ren’s “redeemed” theme.

You can find this moment in the cue “Farewell” starting around the 0:50 mark. In the film itself, it starts the moment we see Ben’s hand emerge from that crack in the ground, revealing that he is, in fact, alive and didn’t fall to his death.

 

In strictly technical terms, this is the same theme we’ve heard for Kylo Ren all along. The notes haven’t changed all that much…but how they’re presented is. Gone is the harsh brass, the loud, angry tones. Instead, we have a soft theme gliding along in the strings and woodwinds. In essence, this is John Williams making it as clear as possible that Kylo Ren is indeed dead and gone, that this is a changed man before us crawling and making his way towards Rey.

But as with anything John Williams does, there’s a lot more going on just in this short moment. As the redeemed theme emerges, it begins to layer on itself, building and growing as the layers rebound off one another. All of this symbolizes Ben’s grief at finding Rey dead and the battle over. How incredible is it that all of this happens in just a short space of time? It’s so effective, which is why this is one of my favorite musical moments in the entire sequel trilogy.

And of course, there is yet another connection to Ben’s grandfather Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. You see, this isn’t the first time a Star Wars villain’s music has changed to a milder, “redeemed” style. All the way back in Return of the Jedi, Williams did something very similar for the cue “Darth Vader’s Death” (starting around 0:48)

 

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? It’s the same Imperial March, same notes and all that, but it’s been moved to the strings and sounds a lot more mild, just like what we hear in The Rise of Skywalker. I’m fairly certain that John Williams did this on purpose, to heighten the connection between Ben and his grandfather. It seems that Ben is exactly like Anakin after all, angry in life and redeemed at the moment of death.

Let me know what you think about Kylo Ren’s “redeemed” theme in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Empire Strikes Back: “The Imperial March” by John Williams

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi “Final Duel” (1983)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Bad Batch Theme” (2020)

Star Wars: Rebels “It’s Over Now”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Kylo Ren’s Theme” (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Rey’s Theme” (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “March of the Resistance” (2015)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi “The Spark” (2017)

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi “The Spark” (2017)

My general opinion of The Last Jedi has changed a great deal since I first saw the movie in 2017, but one thing that hasn’t changed is my love of the film’s soundtrack. It’s been my longstanding opinion that the Star Wars soundtrack as a whole is one of the greatest film music creations ever made and the music for The Last Jedi is up there with some of the best themes Williams ever created.

“The Spark” is one such theme and one I’ve wanted to talk about for a while. It occurs very late in the film, when Luke Skywalker appears out of nowhere in the remains of the Rebel base on Crait. Most of the cue, starting around 1:00 is actually from a Return of the Jedi theme known as “Luke and Leia” and plays when Luke finally reunites with his twin sister. You would know this as the music that plays in ROTJ when Luke reveals that Leia is his twin. It’s pretty much the same theme all over again and it really is perfect for this scene that happens to be the first and sadly, only, time we see Luke and Leia together in the sequel trilogy (everything after this was done with body doubles and CGI so it doesn’t really “count” for me if that makes sense).

After this memorable theme runs its course, then the fun really starts. Starting around 2:15 the music begins to morph into something different but it doesn’t latch onto the new theme until around 2:30. From that point on, the music enters a weird march-like motif that might sound odd at first, or vaguely familiar depending on your point of view. There’s a deep, booming motif that repeats over and over again as Luke strides out to confront the First Order and his wayward nephew Kylo Ren. As you listen to it, you might realize that this is actually from the bass line of The Imperial March, known the world over as “Darth Vader’s theme.”

luke-leia-tlj-tall

Think of the symbolism in this choice on the composer’s part. We have Luke Skywalker, Jedi, hero of the Rebellion, etc. and so on, marching out to face the evil First Order to more or less the tune of the Imperial March. I don’t know if it’s merely ironic or also meant to send a message, maybe something to the effect that it’s Luke who has the power and authority that Kylo has always sought but will never find because he’s too much of a hothead. It could be I’m thinking too much into it but it always sends chills down my spine to hear the remnants of that immortal theme when Luke walks out, all alone, to stare the enemy down.

Some people gave John Williams a lot of flack for not creating a new Imperial March or something equivalent for the sequel trilogy, but I really feel he didn’t need to, and “The Spark” is a prime reason why. It’s a combination of the old and new that lends sadness and power to this scene in a way that only Williams can make possible.

Enjoy listening to “The Spark” from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Let me know your thoughts about this moment in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Empire Strikes Back: “The Imperial March” by John Williams

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Kylo Ren’s Theme” (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Rey’s Theme” (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “March of the Resistance” (2015)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Bad Batch Theme” (2020)

Star Wars: Rebels “It’s Over Now”

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Soundtrack Review: The Invisible Man (2020)

The soundtrack for Universal Pictures’ remake of The Invisible Man is now available digitally and will be available on LP starting March 4th, 2020. Starring Emmy Award winner Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale), The Invisible Man is a terrifying modern tale of obsession inspired by Universal’s classic Monster character.

Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist, Cecilia Kass (Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding. But when Cecilia’s abusive ex, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House), commits suicide and leaves her a generous portion of his vast fortune, Cecilia suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of eerie coincidences turn lethal, threatening the lives of those she loves, Cecilia’s sanity begins to unravel as she desperately tries to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.

The film’s score was composed by Benjamin Wallfisch (Blade Runner 2049, IT). He has worked on over 75 feature films and has received Golden Globe®, BAFTA®, two-time GRAMMY® and Emmy® nominations. It was recently announced that Wallfisch will score the New Line/Warner Bros reboot of Mortal Kombat, which is slated for a 2021 release.

Regarding the film’s score, Wallfisch had the following to say:

It was about using silence rhythmically. When there is music, the gestures and sonic attitude are sometimes so left-field and extreme that you almost don’t trust the score’s absence when it’s not there. As a kind of analogue to the presence of Adrian Griffin [the Invisible Man] in the film.

Also, the orchestral instrumentation is deliberately constrained to strings- only so that the musicians were pushed to their max, without the support of a full orchestra. That choice was also an homage to one of my heroes, Bernard Herrmann and one of his masterpieces, the Psycho score.

As the film progresses, Cecilia (Moss) devolves into questioning her every move, then grows into her power. The composer reflected that journey musically as well:

Cecilia’s Theme,’ a simple melody for cello and strings, was written to be a musical reminder of her own sanity, as everything unravels around her,” Wallfisch said. “You only hear it a handful of times in the movie, at key turning points in the story. There is also a piano motif that recurs a few times, something building and insistent, meant to portray the way she still manages to hold on to who she really is, against all the odds, ultimately triumphing.”

Because Wallfisch was tasked with creating musical space for an antagonist who is literally not present, the composer had to factor into his choices for Adrian/the Invisible Man some elements that he’d not previously considered for a villain:

Rather than a melodic theme, we needed a signature sound for Adrian—something that just creeps up on you. The sonic for the Invisible Man himself is entirely electronic, and when it goes full tilt, we tried to push things as hard as they could possibly go.

Knowing that the Invisible Man is characterized by electronic sounds makes listening to the soundtrack very interesting indeed, as his motif truly does creep up on you, appearing when you least expect it. There’s a jarring contrast between the strings of the orchestra and the electronic tones as well, which could be symbolizing how unnatural Griffin’s invisible existence really is (after all humans weren’t meant to be invisible). Also, I can definitely sense the homage to Herrmann with the all-strings orchestra. These days it’s somewhat unusual to get a film orchestra that’s all strings, as it creates a musical dynamic that you don’t hear all that often anymore.

Wallfisch really appears to be ratcheting up the tension with this soundtrack as well, as each track is just full of it. Even the tracks that don’t contain references to the Invisible Man are full of subtle tensions (which you would expect in a horror film), as if the next encounter could happen at any moment. It was enjoyable to listen to, but also more than a little nerve wracking since after a while you come to expect that at some point the Invisible Man sonic will jump in and surprise you.

All in all, the soundtrack for The Invisible Man was quite enjoyable, just from listening to it I’m half tempted to check out the film itself once it arrives in theaters.

TRACK LIST
  1. Cobolt
  2. Escape
  3. He’s Gone
  4. This Is What He Does
  5. We’ve Got That In Common
  6. Make It Rain
  7. Attack
  8. Why Me
  9. The Suit
  10. Asylum
  11. He’s Behind You
  12. House Fight
  13. It’s All a Lie
  14. Surprise
  15. Denouement

Check out the soundtrack for The Invisible Man when you get the chance. And let me know what you think of it (and the film) in the comments below, and have a great night!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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Soundtrack Review: Wendy (2020)

It’s been announced by Milan Records that the original motion picture soundtrack for Wendy will be released on February 28, 2020. It will be released the same day the film comes out, and you can view the trailer for Wendy below:

 

The album features music co-written by Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin. The album is the latest in a series of scoring collaborations for the duo that includes both Zeitlin’s own critically-acclaimed, breakout film Beasts of the Southern Wild as well as additional titles Brimstone & Glory and Mediterranea.

Of the soundtrack, Wendy director and co-composer BENH ZEITLIN has this to say:

We set out to create a score the charges straight at you, with all the energy and reckless abandon of a toddler on a rampage. The themes are meant to feel timeless and cathartic, iconic yet dizzying.  We wanted to take the ragtag back yard orchestra concept from Beasts of the Southern Wild and explode it to new heights.

A single from the new soundtrack, “The Story of Wendy” has been made available already. You can listen to it below:

 

“The Story of Wendy” is a beautiful piece of music. It starts off with some whimsical strings but quickly grows in power, adding in brass and the rest of the orchestra. If this piece is representative of the soundtrack as a whole, then Romer and Zeitlin have indeed taken the story of Peter Pan and Wendy in a completely different direction than anything we’ve seen before (and that’s really not a bad thing). I’m excited to hear what the rest of the soundtrack is like just based on this single track. Romer and Zeitlin really have gone for a timeless feel here as they said, and that’s the type of feeling you want in any story dealing with Peter Pan and not growing up.

Enjoy this sneak peek at the Wendy soundtrack and be sure to check it out when it becomes available on February 28, 2020.

WENDY (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)
TRACKLISTING –
1. Sneak Away
2. Straight On ’till Morning
3. The Haunted Train
4. Into The Night
5. Neverbirds
6. The Mother
7. Never Grow Up
8. The Old Hand
9. Where Lost Boys Go
10. Want To Fly?
11. To Grow Up is a Great Adventure
12. Battle for Mañana
13. I Love My Mother
14. Counting the Days
15. The Story of Wendy
16. Once There Was a Mother

Let me know what you think about “The Story of Wendy” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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